- Clark: It’s unconstitutional, obnoxious
- Land is vested in governors, says Falana
- Middle Belt forum kicks as Afenifere restates position
Tobi Soniyi, Gboyega Akinsanmi and Bayo Akinloye
In a move to douse the raging storm over the planned Ruga settlement for Fulani herdsmen across the states of the federation, the Vice Chairman of the National Food Security Council and Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu has allayed fears that the federal government was planning to acquire lands and clandestinely settle Fulani herders in other parts of the country.
Speaking exclusively to THISDAY last night, Bagudu said contrary to some insinuations doing the rounds, the Ruga intervention was an initiative designed to assist in improving the living conditions of the Fulani herdsmen in places that they currently live across the country.
But the National Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, has described the plan to create Ruga settlements for herdsmen across the states of the federation as illegal and horrible, saying the proposal would be resisted.
Corroborating the views of the Ijaw leader, a Lagos-based constitutional lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, also said the Ruga settlement idea could only succeed if the governors cooperated, because land is constitutionally vested in them.
In the same vein, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), at the weekend, kicked against the Ruga move, while Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-political group reiterated that the Yoruba remained opposed to the creation of such settlements in their region.
The Taraba State government equally said there was no way the Ruga settlement would pass with it, because it had already made provisions for ranching in its anti-open grazing law of 2017.
However, insisting there was nothing to fret about, the Kebbi governor, who argued that the initiative transcends just extending help to the Fulani herders, posited that the national food security council was also concerned about farmers, fishing communities and pastoralists.
“The Council is cognizant of the importance of small scale, family owned and seldom uninsured farmers, fishing communities and pastoralist. It is necessary to support all the respective groups so that they generate more output from the activities, earn more income and thus contributing to enhanced growth in the economy.”
For each of these groups, he noted that the federal government was already exploring the different ways to support them even as he mentioned that over N23 billion had already been spent to support farmers alone.
Thus, when asked specifically if the idea did not include acquiring lands, he said, “No. Absolutely, no! The government is just going to – just like saying these are Fulani villages. They are currently living in these villages but in the entire place, they don’t have water. They don’t have veterinary services. They don’t have schools.
“We want to encourage these communities to remain in one place; to modernise their activities. We might as well, even if it is on private scheme start so that we can see the efficacy of the modern life. This is the beauty of it; it is not a grazing reserve. It is not a colony. It is like the federal government coming to Kebbi State and saying, ‘show me where your Fulanis are and, I show them and they found out that they don’t have water, schools and they don’t have everything that the government is providing elsewhere.
“We are saying okay, let’s have a pilot scheme. Let’s try to provide all these since we’re recognising their challenges. We are not rewarding them; we are not bribing them. We are not giving them money.
“In the final analysis, it must be reiterated that the national food security council is concerned about farmers, fishing communities and pastoralists. So, for each of these groups, we are exploring what we can do to support them. Over N23 billion is being spent to support farmers. We are also working on a project for the fishing communities,” he said.
Talking about Ruga, Bagudu said, “Let me tell you – I don’t know whether you know what Ruga is. If you can go to any state in the north or a place filled with Fulani, you go near a village or a town you will see Fulani settlements. I am sure you have seen one or two.
“A Ruga is where Fulani stay and communities accept that. The key thing is legitimacy, which has been recognised by the respective communities. It is a very important element. We are not talking about buying lands and giving it to Fulani. We are not talking about buying lands and putting them in grazing reserves.
“We are saying – for example, if you go to Oyo, maybe you will see where Fulani are staying. The people in that community are okay with it, for example. So, that is a Ruga. That is where they stay. But like I said earlier, the important element is that the place was accepted by the original people, whether it is in Kebbi, Sokoto or Oyo, it must meet with the acceptance of the communities.
“So, the key thing is, if that is the case, and those people have animals in that location, then, it seems sensible to support them with water so that they don’t go in search for water. It is that search that can cause a problem, for example.
“Ruga has a sense of legitimacy, where the Fulani are settled,” he said, noting that they are mostly accepted by host communities that are okay with the Fulani.
“But in 100 per cent of the Ruga, you won’t find water. You won’t find schools. You won’t find anything government should mainly provide for communities and towns.
“So, what we are saying is, if we want our farmers to thrive, we should support them. In order to avoid conflict-behaviour, we must begin to provide water for them in the communities, where they live and we want the government to provide services like veterinary clinics for them. You might as well provide these services for them so that they will remain in one place.
“Nigeria is starting with the Ruga pilot programme in some states so that these can take place, where the majority of Fulani are found anywhere. So, if the government starts there and it succeeds, then the possibility that they will move elsewhere is reduced.
“And, we are not giving them money. We are saying give them the infrastructure that the government is already providing to other communities,” he explained.
But speaking earlier on the raging issue before THISDAY spoke Governor Bagudu, Clark said: “The whole idea is unconstitutional and obnoxious. Nigerians, especially from the South and Middle Belt, will not allow Fulani settlement in their area.
“I am familiar with what is going on in Kaduna already. This kind of settlement is creating problem between Southern Kaduna and Fulani. So, we cannot allow Ruga in the South. Fulani is not the only ethnic group in Nigeria.”
Wondering if President Muhammadu Buhari was also taking Ijaw people to every part of Nigeria to settle, Clark insisted that the idea of the Fulani settlements was an abomination and unconstitutional, particularly for two reasons.
“First, the Land Use Act, which is part of the 1999 Constitution, states categorically that land in every state of the federation, especially in the urban area, is vested in the governor of the state, who holds it in trust for the people.
“And the land in the rural areas is held in trust by the local government council for the people as well. Only these authorities have the right to grant, give and sell communal land to any person. In addition, the rights of individuals are also respected in the Land Use Act.
“When in 2014 some people suggested that the Land Use Act should be removed from the 1999 Constitution, the northerners were opposed to it. Why are they proposing to bring Fulani settlement to every state in the country?
“We cannot allow Fulani settlements in any part of Nigeria. The Presidency cannot create permanent settlement for Fulani across the federation.
“With the establishment of Fulani Radio, our security is not guaranteed. Fulanis in the South are already going about with AK-47 rifles, harassing everybody, particularly in the South-west, where they said they had about 19 camps. It is dangerous.
“It is not in the interest of the people of Nigeria. I call on Mr. President to withdraw it with immediate effect if he wants to be the President of Nigeria as he is today.”
The Ijaw leader said he was sure “no governor in the South and Middle Belt will not allow it. Let us respect one another in this country if we want to move together and live together as one country. No part should impose its will or religion on us. We belong to a federation.
“There is nowhere in the world where one ethnic group is being imposed upon in a federal state.”
Falana: Governors Vested with Powers to Regulate Land Use, Development
Speaking from the standpoint of the constitution, Falana, in a terse statement, said, “Our attention has been drawn to the report that the federal government has concluded arrangements to build RUGA or cattle colony in each state of the federation.
“It is pertinent to point out that the Supreme Court has held that the entire land in each state of the federation is vested in the governor. As far as the Land Use Act is concerned, the federal government has no control over any land outside the federal capital territory. Therefore, Nigerians should rest assured that the federal government cannot forcefully acquire any land for RUGA or ranch in any state without the consent of the governor.”
Going back history lane, Falana said, “In the First republic, the Awolowo regime had a ranch at Akunnu (Ondo State), Ahmadu Bello regime had a ranch in Mokwa (Niger State) while the Azikwe regime had Obudu cattle ranch (Cross River State).
“In the Second Republic, Governor Ajasin built a dairy farm in Ikun (Ekiti State), but all the ranches were ruined by former military dictators. Today, the South-west consumes 10,000 heads of cattle daily.
“Lagos alone consumes about 6,000. What stops the Oodua Group from setting up a ranch to supply meat in the South-west? The meat sold by Shoprite (in 25 malls) is prepared in an abattoir in Ikenne, Ogun State.”
In separate interviews, President of Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, and Senior Special Assistant to the Taraba State Governor, Mr. Bala Dan Abu, all described Ruga as an obnoxious idea being foisted on Nigeria by the federal government.
Afenifere: We Remain Opposed to Ruga
Odumakin expressed concern that in spite of the threat the Fulani herdsmen posed to the South-west, the governors were unwilling to discuss the issue.
He said: “It was only the Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who talked about herdsmen attacks. It is a troubling season. Yoruba leaders gathered in Ibadan on Thursday at a book presentation in memory of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
“We have leaders across the South-west including traditional rulers. Olubadan was there. Aalafin of Oyo was there. Oni of Ile-Ife was also there. Sadly enough, other governors were not there. The leaders resolved that no governor should give an inch of Yorubaland for Ruga purpose.
“It was resolved that the Yoruba would not accept it. Any governor, who violates this resolution, will see the red eyes of the Yoruba people. At the state now, we have executive governors, who have no control over any police.
“Just like what one traditional ruler said months back, if we wait for the Nigeria Police, we will all die one by one. We have resolved not to die one by one.
“We have asked the traditional rulers to activate their traditional self-defensive tactics to ward off these marauders called Fulani herdsmen. Also, the Ibadan meeting mandated Oni of Ife and Aalafin of Oyo to put heads together with other leaders across boards to take certain steps to ensure the safety of Yoruba people. So, we are not sleeping.”
Odumakin noted that it was the failure of the Nigerian state that made the bandits look larger than they were.
“But Yoruba territory will not be overrun,” he said. He added, “From all indications, these people are not herdsmen. In truth, they are terrorists. They have agenda for domination and expansion, taking over people’s land.
“Ruga is all about taking over people’s land and dominating them. Like Chief Obasanjo once said, there is Fulanisation agenda that is going on. It is clear that they have agenda. And that agenda is clear ethnic domination of other people.”
Middle Belt Forum: Ruga Had Been Shut Down Before
Bitrus was of the view that Ruga was the same idea that was shut down before, noting that the federal government merely repackaged and gave it a Hausa name.
According to him, “In Hausa, Ruga means small Fulani settlement. It is the same wine in another wine skin. It is the same wine, which they presented in the form of cattle colony. Now, they have changed it to Hausa name called Ruga.
“The problems here are disturbing. First, a great proportion of Fulani are not Nigerians. Some of them are Mali. Some of them are from Senegal. Some of them are from Chad. Others are from Niger.
“El Rufai made a statement when attack on Southern Kaduna was going on that they had to go settling these people so that they could stop attacking our people.
“Second, the federal government will use tax payers’ money for one ethnic group’s personal business, because herding is personal business just like farming is a personal business. It is not right ethically and otherwise. You cannot just take public funds and use it for one ethnic group.”
Bitrus also stated that Ruga would not solve farmers-herdsmen clashes, noting, “As far as I am concerned, it is more of colonisation. If we are to go ranching, which is also business, but with the permission of state government or local government providing land on application. This is because the applicants have to be certified to be Nigerians before they can acquire such land.
“They can do their businesses, but Ruga is not acceptable to anybody. It is more of what Chief Obasanjo said – Fulanisation. Ruga is about bringing Fulanis from all West African countries and loading them on us to change demography for their political interest.
“The way to go is ranching. That is the modern technique for cattle breeding across the world. Since it is a private business, Fulanis can apply for land like other citizens to practice their business. Based on the Land Use Act, land is in the hand of the governor.
“They can apply for land to do their business, but not for the public funds to be used selectively for one ethnic nationality just to populate the place, large area of our land and hand over to Fulani to colonise them, because President Buhari is one of them.”
Taraba Says No to Ruga
The Taraba State Government said it would not concede any portion of the state’s land for Ruga, denying claims that it has agreed to allow Ruga settlement to be created in the state. Speaking with THISDAY, Senior Special Assistant to the Taraba State Governor, Mr. Bala Dan Abu, said the state had already made provisions for ranching in its Anti-open Grazing Law of 2017.
Abu called on the federal government to take advantage of the provisions of the law and support the initiatives already put in place by the state.
He said the law made provisions for farmers-herders relationship and also created marshals that would not bear arms but would work with security agencies to ensure that farmers and herders live harmoniously. He regretted the refusal of the federal government to cooperate with the state.
Abu stated, “We are opposed to Ruga. Taraba State will not concede any portion of its land for Ruga. We suspected that the Federal Government was going to come out with this obnoxious plan when they opposed our initiatives to put an end to farmers-herders clash.”
He said the state had already held strategic meetings with the security agencies and had begun training the marshals when the federal government suddenly declared the marshals would constitute a security risk.
Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki: It’s Buhari Government’s Colonial Initiative
Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki of Midwest Movement, rejecting the planned herders’ settlements, stated, “The Ruga settlements or whatever they call it, which is to resettle nomadic Fulani herdsmen in states across the federation, is – at best – a new colonial initiative of the federal government. What makes it even more daring is the fact that the federal government is not taking into consideration the peculiar nature of the places it wants to settle people into; who are not indigenous to those places.
“We are Nigerians and everybody has a right –however, wherever –to move or co-habit in any part of the country. That is ok. But, land is a very sensitive issue across the world.
“You cannot just by fiat legislate that areas –swathes of lands –be given to nomadic herdsmen of a particular tribe across the nation. It’s a deliberate attempt to change the entire demography of the country.”